The Trump administration released last week a proposed framework for immigration reform, which contains several of much-discussed changes to the country’s immigration policy including:
- Demand for a $25bn budget to build the border wall
- A path to citizenship for beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA),
- A drastic cut in visa quotas available for “family reunification,” under which parents and siblings of US citizens are allowed to migrate to the US and
- Elimination of the Diversity Visa Lottery.
In addition to this, other lawmakers have also proposed bills that introduce a range of changes to the country’s immigration system.
So far, none of these bills have yet been voted upon.
It is however unlikely for these bills to be passed unaltered, as changes to various provisions are being suggested by both lawmakers and government agencies.
Nonetheless, a look at their cumulative contents can offer a view of the drastically altered immigration regime that would-be US immigrants could face in just a few months.
Taking pre-emptive steps to some of these changes can help those affected and avoid disappointment and discrimination later, according to attorney Rafia Zakaria.
Main Provisions Being Considered
- The family immigration category is likely to see major changes. Even though Democrats oppose limiting the “family re-unification” visa quotas, it may give in to at least some cuts to the category as it seeks electoral significant gains in 2018.
Under the proposed rules, only spouses and children under 18 will be provided the necessary visas and therefore the consequences are grave for those intending to file immigrant petitions for parents and siblings.
- The second area which is being targeted under the proposed reforms is the H-1B visa category which is typically used for scientists, engineers and computer programmers.
The current proposal seeks to eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery and divert it to the applicants awaiting green cards filed via the H-1B programme.
Another proposed bill the Immigration and Innovation Act 2018 (referred to as I-squared) looks to increase the existing 65,000 H-1B visa quota by 20,000, with an unlimited number of exemptions for those with US master’s degrees or above. Additionally country-specific quotas and the employment restriction on the H-4 visas(for immediate family members of the H-1B visa holders) will be eliminated. This bill is currently under review in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Since these changes seems to be open to retaining talented immigrants particularly those in science and technology fields, seeking Master’s degree or higher may be the best way forward.
- Sunni Muslims are likely to face difficulties in the immigration process as a result of a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) directive that has asked that the United States Government “continuously evaluate persons of interest” which includes Sunni Muslims (both US residents and visa applicants). The reason cited is that they are believed to be “vulnerable to terrorist narratives”.
Leaked by Foreign Policy magazine , the DHS memo indicates that all Sunni Muslims may be subject to prolonged surveillance and questioning.
Taken together, the new immigration regime that is likely to get enforced under the Trump administration in the near future would be “anti-family, anti-Muslim but pro-genius” according to Zakaria.
Accordingly US citizens who have family abroad and hope to sponsor them must do so immediately, as well as Sunni Muslim males planning to visit the US but not in possession of a tourist visa must apply without delay so as to ensure their application is registered before the new laws come into force.